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Large crowds, live music, and loud fireworks — it would have all the hallmarks of a typical New Year’s celebration, if not for the terrified opossum dangled in a cramped box over the cheering mob. This is Brasstown’s annual “Opossum Drop,” which adds a North Carolina “twist” on the prominent ball drop in Time Square. (See the video under “More about this issue” for a first-hand look.)

In recent years, event organizers have faced increased pressure from animal advocates, culminating in a lawsuit that prevented use of a live opossum in the 2013 event. Not to be deterred, State Representative Roger West (who also happens to sponsor the Opossum Drop) introduced a bill (HB 1131) “to exempt Clay County from state wildlife laws with respect to opossums between the dates of December 26 and January 2.” The bill became law in June 2014.

An implicit acknowledgement that the event violates the state’s existing wildlife laws, this law sets a poor precedent, prioritizing personal and commercial interests over animal welfare. Worse still, this “family friendly” event teaches young kids in attendance that it’s okay to masquerade animal abuse as entertainment.

This leaves us until the end of the year to let North Carolina’s General Assembly know we don’t tolerate this brand of animal cruelty. Fortunately, a trio of Senators that serve on the state’s Environment Committee also voted against this awful piece of legislation. Sign below to stand behind them and call on a law to repeal SL 2014-7.

Sign Here

Dear Senators:

As members of the state’s Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources, I am writing to you to ask you continue standing up against animal cruelty in all of its manifestations. Specifically, this is a request to repeal SL 2014-7, which permits Brasstown, NC to continue using live opossums in their annual New Year’s celebration, the “Opossum Drop.” All but the event’s most ardent supporters recognize this façade for what it is — animal cruelty masquerading as entertainment.

The Opossum Drop is especially dangerous in its depictions of animal cruelty. Billed as a “family friendly” event, the celebration dresses up torture and animal abuse in a veneer of frivolity that belies the tragic underpinnings of the event. Each year, organizers capture and confine the typically reclusive marsupial in a cramped space where it is left to dangle above thousands of cheering onlookers as they celebrate with loud music, fireworks, and even musket fire.

Concerned citizens are dismissed as hippie killjoys out to ruin a town tradition in the name of political correctness. But “tradition” often serves as a last refuge for anachronistic practices that fall from social favor. Opossum Drop’s defenders are particularly disingenuous, ignoring the fact that the event was fabricated in 1990 as a desperate marketing ploy for the tiny Appalachian town. Since then, the event has quickly enshrined a public display of animal cruelty that now enjoys state protection.

Those same supporters also argue the captive opossum receives better treatment than a wild opossum and then is released back into the wild after the event. Yet reams of evidence and experts counter that the abducted mammal suffers potentially lethal trauma from the exposure and likely perishes shortly after release. Opossums are nocturnal creatures that prefer dark and secure areas — not a Plexiglas case left hanging above a rambunctious crowd during a fireworks show.

A replica could easily stand in for these unfortunate opossums and prevent any potential for abuse — not to mention the mounting cost of legal battles in courtrooms and the state legislature — while carrying on the tradition. In fact, true adherents should recall the very first Opossum Drop used a ceramic replica and only later introduced the live opossum.

As it stands now, Opossum Drop’s only legacy is one of animal cruelty, teaching future generations that such mistreatment is not only tolerated, but actually encouraged. The punchline of many jokes, it’s easy and even tempting to dismiss the troubles of this solitary marsupial. It gives me some hope to see a small enclave of reason and empathy operating in an environment dominated by personal and commercial interests.

Please, do what you can to convince your colleagues and your constituents that SL 2014-7 is a shameful law and needs repealed immediately.


(The Undersigned)

Petition Signatures

Sep 18, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Sep 18, 2014 Mirkka Salo
Sep 18, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Sep 17, 2014 Kerry Himmel
Sep 17, 2014 Camryn Lee What kind of sick people think it's fun to kill? Sociopaths.
Sep 17, 2014 Jeanette M.
Sep 17, 2014 Anne Applegate
Sep 17, 2014 Eva Leutenegger
Sep 17, 2014 roberta morse Stop this horrible sick cruelty now....
Sep 17, 2014 Beatrix Janek-Oefelein
Sep 17, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Sep 17, 2014 Cindy Funk
Sep 17, 2014 Maureen Shearer
Sep 17, 2014 Chari Birnholz
Sep 17, 2014 Anne Aaron-Lyle
Sep 17, 2014 geena hanlon How sick is this and all for entertainment. What is wrong with this world.
Sep 17, 2014 fataneh fazeli
Sep 17, 2014 Linda Scott
Sep 17, 2014 Megan Tillman
Sep 17, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Sep 17, 2014 sherri pickett
Sep 17, 2014 trine bellew
Sep 17, 2014 Sandra Hendrickson "We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words." Anna Sewell, English novelist
Sep 17, 2014 Danielle Montello I sincerely can't believe we've come to a petition to stop this! This shouldn't even be happening! What is wrong with this country!
Sep 17, 2014 (Name not displayed) This is sick! What kind of twisted mind came up with this?
Sep 17, 2014 olympia bravo
Sep 17, 2014 Andrew Eisenberg
Sep 17, 2014 Jean Blake
Sep 17, 2014 fiorenza boasso
Sep 17, 2014 Brenda Sobieck
Sep 17, 2014 Deb Haight
Sep 17, 2014 Toni Derr
Sep 17, 2014 Charolette Mace In addition to being shy, quiet creatures, and extremely family oriented, Oppossum eat slugs. They will always be welcome in my yard!
Sep 17, 2014 jason d
Sep 17, 2014 Michelle Fortener
Sep 17, 2014 Heather Leblanc
Sep 17, 2014 Chelsea Reed
Sep 17, 2014 Sandra Broadhead
Sep 16, 2014 tomislav fumić
Sep 16, 2014 Jackie McFarland
Sep 16, 2014 Natally Klaric
Sep 16, 2014 Tia Robinson
Sep 16, 2014 (Name not displayed)
Sep 16, 2014 R Lefevre
Sep 16, 2014 Melissa Smith
Sep 16, 2014 Patricia Antonelli
Sep 16, 2014 Yvette Dominguez
Sep 16, 2014 Janet Lacetera
Sep 16, 2014 Martha Hildreth

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